When Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes in May 1954 it was not merely a remarkable sporting achievement, it was a triumph of the human spirit.
On that overcast spring day in Oxford someone had done what many considered physically impossible; physiologists of the day did not think the body could cope with the strain it would inflict. Many athletes had striven for success but all had failed, making Roger Bannister's extraordinary efforts that day one of the greatest feats in sporting history.
By studying scientific training methods, in addition to this physical training, Roger Bannister was determined to prove the experts wrong, and he took up the challenge to rewrite the record books.
On 6th May 1954 Roger Bannister left his mark on history by finishing the race in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds, stumbling to the ground as he crossed the line.
"It was only then that real pain overtook me. I felt like an exploded flashlight with no will to live; I just went on existing in the most passive physical state without being unconscious."
Within two months time Roger Bannister's time was bettered by John Landy, proving that once the physical barrier had been removed the psychological barrier also disappeared.
The fiftieth anniversary of Roger Bannister's achievement in breaking the four-minute mile is commemorated on the golf proof 50p for 2004. It was designed by the distinguished sculptor James Butler who also designed the obverse of the Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal and secured the prestigious commission of producing a new Great Seal of the Realm. The coin design, which does not focus on Roger Bannister the man, is symbolic of running a race. In its sculptured grace it is concerned with his outstanding achievement and the strength of the human spirit.
Obverse - Fourth Portrait
All 2004 coins carried the fourth portrait obverse design by Ian Rank-Broadley.